Twice Exceptional Children
By Guest Contributor, Christine Hawkins, Gifted Educator
MYTH: “That child can’t be gifted. He has a disability.” I hesitate to admit that as a young adult and new regular classroom teacher, I once held those words to be true. Fortunately, with the passage of time, maturity, and continued education, I now recognize the fallacy in this quote.
TRUTH: Giftedness and disability are not mutually exclusive. According to Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph. D., founder of The Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, and its subsidiary, Gifted Development Center, “up to one sixth of the identified gifted population has a hidden learning disability.” The strengths of gifted students can also be weaknesses because their high IQ may allow them to compensate for and/or mask disabilities. According to authors Kennedy, Banks, and Grandin, in the book Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism, “the characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder, Highly Functioning Autism, and Giftedness are strikingly similar.” The three all may involve intensity, inattention, exceptional vocabulary, behavioral/communicative difficulties, and delays or weaknesses in social development.
Giftedness can coexist with learning disabilities. Individuals with such an overlap are referred to as “twice exceptional” (or 2e) children. Unfortunately, parents and teachers may focus on the problem behaviors of twice exceptional children, instead of taking into account the gifts or deficits that might be the motivating force behind a child’s behavior. James Webb, a 2e expert, states “The belief exists that gifted kids will make it on their own. But a gifted mind doesn’t always find its own way.” In the case of 2e children, this is especially true. These students require a strengths-based education which incorporates interventions to address individual deficits as well as activities to foster and develop abilities and talents.
In 2008, Congress passed Section 504 of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which states that students with a disability can obtain an evaluation and services if the disability restricts their ability to learn, think, concentrate or communicate. Because 2e students can often compensate for their area of disability, and achieve in the average range, schools might not independently pursue diagnosis of a disability. Due to Section 504, parents may file a written request for an evaluation if they believe their child’s disability restricts their youngster’s ability to learn. After diagnosis, the twice exceptional child’s unique needs can be properly addressed through instructional strategies which may include grouping with other gifted children, accelerated curriculum in areas of strengths, and support from specially trained teachers in areas or disability.
As a parent of a 19 year old twice exceptional student, we discovered the wealth of support services available at Arizona State University at their Disability Resource Center only after his freshman year. My child was labeled as gifted in the second grade, and was able to compensate for his “hidden” Attention Deficit Disorder through high school. Because of this, we did not pursue an official ADD diagnosis, fearing the ensuing label would carry with it more consequences than benefits. In hindsight, this diagnosis would have enabled a much more positive transition to academic success in college. After a rocky start, we privately obtained the diagnosis of disability which made our child eligible for support from a counselor at the Disability Resource Center, accommodations in classes, and even the use of a Smart Pen for taking notes. He is once again experiencing academic success. We discovered (a bit late in the game) that high school seniors on their way to college or seeking accommodations at the university level can request a re-assessment under the specifications found within Section 504.
It is entirely possible for giftedness to co-exist with a learning or behavioral disability. With planning and support, twice exceptional students can turn their difficulties into triumphs through building upon strengths while addressing areas of weakness.
Many thanks to Shari Murphy, our guest presenter last night. She did a fantastic job with her presentation on the Twice Exceptional Student. During her presentation Dabrowski’s Overexcitibilities were mentioned. Click here to go to our website if you are interested in learning more about the “OEs.”
Many thanks to Barb VeNard and her team – for their time and efforts last night as well as over the last few years as they have sought ways to provide increased services to our gifted students and involve the community in that process, especially during a time when the legislature has defunded gifted education. Last night, questions arose about -
- The Cluster Grouping model. Click here to go to our website if you would like to learn more about the Cluster Grouping model.
- The Common Core State Standards. Click here to go to our website to learn more about the CCSS.
- Gifted Education Funding. Unlike Special Education, Gifted Education has been DEFUNDED at BOTH the federal and state levels. Click here to visit our website to learn more about funding at the state and federal levels. Look for the "State of Arizona" and "Federal" categories.